SALT LAKE CITY – They say necessity is the mother of invention.
She also apparently gave birth to Timberwolves star Kevin Love’s first career triple-double and Saturday night’s 121-104 victory at Utah as well.
With his top two centers and starting guard Kevin Martin all out injured Saturday, Wolves coach Rick Adelman asked Love for as much as he could conceivably give him, within the bounds of reason, of course.
That turned out to be a 37-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double reached before Love sat down for the final nine minutes after he had propelled his team to a 21-point lead and its third consecutive victory.
“Just do more,” Love said.
That was the challenge that faced the All-Star forward and all of his teammates with Nikola Pekovic, Ronny Turiaf and Martin out. Love responded by scoring 22 points in the third quarter alone, when the Wolves stretched a 10-point halftime lead to as many as 21. Love made five of his six three-pointers in the third quarter.
“He’s unbelievable and because he does it all the time, sometimes we don’t realize how big it is,” teammate Ricky Rubio said.
“He put up video-game numbers. It’s just fun to play with him.”
Love is the 10th Wolves player to record a triple-double. The first was 23 years ago by Ty Corbin, who now coaches the Jazz. Love’s 37 points are the most ever by a Wolves player in a triple-double performance, two more than Kevin Garnett scored in one Dec. 18, 2003 against Dallas.
Love now has scored 55 points in his past three quarters, in games against Denver (15), Indiana (18) and now the Jazz.
“He was incredible, that third quarter was incredible,” Adelman said. “To get a triple-double in three quarters, that’s pretty darn good. I think he really realizes now that he can go out there, not have that many points and in a four-minute span just explode.
“That’s what we need. That’s what we needed at the start of the third quarter. He certainly dominated the game, but that third quarter was incredible.”
Love tied Garnett’s franchise record for consecutive 30-point games by reaching his fourth in a row, and he extended a streak of 25-point, 10-rebound games to nine, the NBA’s longest single-season mark since former Utah star Karl Malone did so in 10 consecutive games in the 1991-92 season.
“That’s good company to be in, especially when you do it in a game where you win,” said Love, who reached a career high in assists while still playing fewer than 35 minutes. “I just go out and play. I’m not looking for assists or rebounds or stats. I’m just going out there and playing hard.”
He finally reached that first career triple-double two minutes into the fourth quarter, throwing one of his freakish court-length outlet passes that favorite target Corey Brewer bobbled before gaining control of both himself and the ball to make a layup that gave the Wolves a 101-82 lead.
“It was very fitting it was him,” Love said. “I’m glad it was him for the 10th assist.”
Love got there in his sixth NBA season, after coming close many other times before.
“It shows at least for this year — and my first six years in the league — how my game has progressed,” Love said. “I thought at some point it’d happen. I’ve been very close. I was happy it was tonight and more happy that we got the win in the first game on this long road trip.”
The Wolves have won three consecutive games and are back within a game of .500. They opened a five-game road trip with a victory that also included valuable performances from little-used reserves Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad and Luc Mbah a Moute.
That trip takes the Wolves to Portland on Sunday night and then on to Phoenix, Sacramento and Denver.
“I hope so,” Love said when asked if his team might be building momentum. “If there’s any time to do it, it’s now. We don’t have too many games left. We have to make some sort of a push and keep that in the back of our minds but just play day by day.”